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15 Questions to Help You Focus on the Finish

By Carrie Barrett

decide your distance, focus on the finishIf you're contemplating signing up for a triathlon, chances are you have reasons you want to compete. Perhaps someone at work dared you or you want to recapture your youthful energy. You may want to qualify for the world championship or race at a professional level. Perhaps your reasons are philanthropic, and you are training to raise money for a charity. You may be registering for health reasons or weight loss. Regardless, know your list of "whys" because you will come back to this list often when you feel unmotivated, stuck, apathetic or tired. (Yes, you will experience all these feelings on your triathlon journey). If you don't know why you're doing it, you'll be less likely to see it to completion. The more you can express your reasons, the more you'll be willing to sacrifice. This is especially true as race distances grow, and the time commitment and costs increase.

Self-Evaluation Questions:
1)  Why do I want to train for a triathlon?
2)  Are my reasons compelling enough to get me through a grueling training season?
3)  What obstacles do I foresee?
4)  How does this race play into my long-term plans?
5)  Do I have a history of starting projects and not finishing them?
6)  What do I want to learn along this journey?
7)  Am I willing to create positive habits that promote success?

Honesty is the Best Policy 
Be honest with yourself about your athletic aptitude and experience. You may excel as a runner, but if you've never swum before, you may need regular coached sessions. Some people relish constructive criticism and assessments. Others become discouraged when they feel awkward, slow or inefficient. The more apt you are at each of the disciplines, the more comfortable it will be to race longer distances. Ultimately, check your ego at the door, and be open to learn several new skill sets. Successful training involves patience and time, and if you are starting from ground zero, aim first for a shorter distance race to gain experience and confidence. Learn what your body is capable of before you plunge into ultra-distance racing. 

Self-Evaluation Questions:
1) Do I enjoy swimming, biking and running?
2) In which discipline am I strongest?
3) In which discipline am I weakest?
4) Do I have the time and enthusiasm to learn a new skill set?
5) Do I have the diligence and patience to keep working even if my progress is slow?
6) Does my current physical health place limitations on my abilities?
7) Am I realistic about my expectations based on my current health?
8) Can I physically go the distances that I want to race? 

Triathlons can be daunting! Three vastly distinct disciplines come together in an array of quick transitions and equipment changes to form one exciting and addictive sport. For some, just crossing the finish line of a race can provide a lifetime of pride.

As your confidence grows, so does experience and even speed. Some feel the urge to go long. Some like the more immediate results of short-distance races. As you go about your distance decision process, ask yourself the questions above to make sure you stay aligned with your purpose and goals. Most importantly, make sure to have fun, and enjoy the journey — the true roots of this sport.

Excerpted from “The BabyBird Guide to Triathlon: Decide Your Distance, Focus on the Finish” by Carrie Barrett. Reprinted with permission.

Carrie Barrett is a USA Triathlon Level 1 Certified Coach and freelance writer based in Austin, Texas. To learn more or to download the e-book, visit

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.